The Child Custody Act, formally known as the Child Custody Protection Act, is legislation that would make it a federal crime to take a minor across state lines to get an abortion without first getting the parental consent or notification required by law in the minor's home state. If the abortion were necessary to save the minor's life, the act would not apply. The Child Custody Protection Act has been voted on by Congress several times over the past 10 years, but has not yet passed both Houses to become law.

What the Child Custody Act does

The Child Custody Protection Act protects the right of parents to be involved in their underage daughter's abortion decision as spelled out in the law of their home state. Currently, thirty-six states have enforceable mandatory parental consent and notice laws. This act would simply enforce existing state laws and does not impose any new requirements.

Penalties for violating the Child Custody Act

If it becomes law, anyone who violates the Child Custody Protection Act can be fined or imprisoned for up to a year. This includes any parent or relative who commits an act of incest with a minor and crosses state lines to abort the pregnancy.

The violator may also be subject to a civil action filed by the minor's parents, unless a parent has committed an act of incest with the minor.

If you are accused of violating the Child Custody Act

If the act becomes law, and you are accused of violating it, you can introduce an affirmative defense to claim that your actions were justified. This defense could limit your guilt or civil liability, but will require clear and convincing evidence.

An affirmative defense must show:

  • That you believed, based on information received directly from a parent, that parental consent or notice was obtained prior to the abortion; or
  • That you were presented with documents showing that a court waived parental notification and/or authorized the abortion.

Additional resources:

GovTrack: Child Custody Protection Act

The Library of Congress-Search updates for bill: "S 2543 IS"